The popular fantasy team-based shooter that technically isn’t quite free-to-play yet.
Though it may have received the most attention, Fortnite was not the only popular free-to-play game to release on the Switch during E3. Quietly announced in a video posted prior to the Nintendo Direct was Paladins, an Overwatch-style online team battle title developed by Hi-Rez Studios. Touting impressive graphics at a buttery smooth 60 FPS, this eventual free-to-play title should satisfy those looking for team combat on the go but unfortunately still has some kinks to work out.
Paladins is best known as free-to-play, however for the June release the only way you’ll be able to play is to purchase the Founders Pack, a paid DLC that provides permanent access to all of the Champions. If there’s some overarching narrative or even a backstory for each Champion buried away somewhere I still have yet to discover any. After setting up an account, the action begins right away with the choice of three different game modes: Deathmatch, Siege, and Onslaught.
Team Deathmatch is the easiest mode to understand right away. A 5v5 free-for-all where the team that manages to get to 40 kills first wins the match. A few different arenas are available and are randomly assigned, though for the most part are pretty similar. A number of walls and obstacles provide both cover and elevation advantages to provide strategic gameplay. Onslaught provides a similar experience but has the added wrinkle of a capture point that needs to be occupied and defended. Points are distributed as the capture point is held in addition to kills made during the match. The first team to manage 400 points becomes the victor. Honors for the mode that lasts the longest and requires the most strategy goes to Siege. In the middle of the arena is a wagon of explosives, the first team to capture the wagon receives a point. A second point is then awarded to the team that either manages to walk the payload to the opposing team rally point, or to the team that defends their rally point. Up to four rounds can potentially be required as the victor is the team that gets to four points first.
The presentation is nothing short of spectacular. Each Champion is beautifully designed with an impressive amount of detail. The weapons really show off their design in first-person view, from the wolfhead sights on Victor’s rifle to the rock projectiles that magically levitate on Inara’s spear. The custom designed Unreal 3 engine provides 60 FPS gameplay, which is as smooth as advertised. But all the graphical prowess couldn’t erase my frustration with its stability. On multiple occasions the game would simply have had enough and spontaneously close mid-match, sending me back to the home screen. In one particular Siege match, my game crashed prior to starting, booted back up and put me back into the same match, to crash again in the third round, and then again place me back into the match which unfortunately couldn’t end because a glitch had given us all infinitive health.
For now, my recommendation is to hold off purchasing Paladins if you’ve never played it before. Hopefully the stability issues will have been updated in time for the free-to-play release and you’ll be able to give it a try before sinking money into it. If you have some friends to play and develop strategizes with, the experience can be rewarding. On your own, you’re at mercy of the skill of those assigned to both your team and the opponents. Though my experience suffered from stability issues and inexperienced teammates, it was a fun exercise to what the Switch is capable of.